Mary Dixon Kies was born March 21, 1752 in Killingly, Connecticut.
Her father was Irish immigrant farmer John Dixon.
Mary Dixon married Isaac Pike and went on to have a son.
At the time, women commonly wore straw hats while working outside. As a result, straw weaving had become an economically vital industry in America.
Then the Patent Act was passed by Congress in 1790, which allowed anyone, male or female, to protect their invention with a patent.
However, because women could not legally own property independent of their husbands, many female inventors didn’t bother to patent their own inventions.
By 1798 Betsy Metcalf, an entrepreneur from New England, employed many women and girls to make straw hats and over time developed a new method for braiding straw which they could produce at home without the need for special resources.
As a result, Betsy Metcalf greatly expanded the straw hat industry.
We may never know for sure, but many believe that one of the girls that Betsy taught how to make straw hats at home was Mary Dixon whose husband had passed away.
Mary then married John Kies.
Around this time, Europe stopped exporting goods to the Untied States as a result of Napoleon blocking trade to hurt his enemies economically.
The United States did not want to be drawn into this conflict, so President James Madison began asking American industries to replace these lost European goods.
In answer to this call, Mary Dixon Kies sent a patent request to the United States Patent and Trademark Office for the technique of weaving straw hats with silk and thread.
On May 5, 1809, Mary Dixon Kies became the first woman granted a patent.
Her technique proved valuable in making cost-effective work bonnets.
In so doing, Mary bolstered New England’s hat economy, which had been faltering.
Straw bonnets manufactured in Massachusetts alone in 1810 had an estimated value of more than $500,000 or over $4.7 million in today’s money.
Even Dolley Madison honored her for this work.
Mary lost her second husband on August 18, 1813 and went to live with her son in Brooklyn, New York.
She was unsuccessful however, in her attempts to profit from her patent and grew old penniless.
In 1836, a fire at the U.S. Patent Office destroyed her original patent file.
Mary Dixon Pike Kies died at the age of 85 in 1837.
Now WE know em